Even after spending many years in school and traveling the world, I still don’t have everything figured out. Even today, I’m still not sure whose armrest is whose at the theater or on an airplane. I haven’t been able to discern what fruit they use to make Juicy Fruit gum. I still haven’t figured out how to give someone space. I wonder what happens if you get scared half to death—twice. If the No. 2 is the most popular pencil in the world, why is it still number two? I must confess that I haven’t yet figured out how to unbuckle my grandson’s car seat. I don’t know why, in every infomercial, the person making the sales pitch has an English accent. And why is it that a teenager will spend $40 for an $8 T-shirt? I don’t know how to solve any of these mysteries.

As I spent yet another summer with our students on the mission field, I got to observe their spending habits. I am always amazed by the amount of money the average student carries around, and also by their lack of thoughtfulness in spending it. Someone might have lost a $20 bill and they will say, “It was only a twenty.” But we do try to train our students in good money management. One day, a student bought a soccer shirt on impulse. I asked him how much he paid. He began to tell me that he got a good deal; he only paid $25. I asked why he thought this was a good deal, and he said, “It costs $50 in the United States.” I went back to the vendor and asked him how much for the same soccer jersey. In 10 minutes, he was offering it to me for $10.

Outside of salvation, one of your child’s greatest needs is to understand God’s biblical principles for finances. Jesus, Himself, talked a lot about managing money, more than He did about Heaven and Hell combined. Why? Jesus Himself said it best: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Your child’s future depends on the ability to manage money. I have read that half of all marriages end because of financial problems. When I grew up, most of us had nothing of our own. We had to share our bedroom with one or more siblings. We shared toys, clothes and even bath water. But because we’ve walked away from biblical principles, we’ve developed a generation that believes the world owes them. Mom and Dad owe them designer clothes. The government owes them housing and food. Instead of being Jesus-centered, their attitude says they are the center of the universe, and the world revolves around them.

Yes, our children start learning about finances as preschoolers. This often begins with a movie in which the producers introduce a character with all kinds of secret weapons. The next thing you know, commercials tell your children that they can get an action figure of this character at any participating fast food restaurant.

Of course, there’s a catch. You can give your child the whole action figure, but you can only get it one part at a time. To get the complete toy, you must make multiple trips to the restaurant. After several trips and several kid’s meals, your child’s action figure ends up with three left arms and two right legs. Yet the child next door has the same figure with all the parts. So, feeling guilty, you keep buying kid’s meals until you have a complete figure. By the time you get the final body part, this particular movie is playing at the dollar theater, and a new one has just been released. Guess what? If you hurry, you can be the first in your neighborhood to get a set of characters from this film.

Will it ever end? No. The world is looking for ways to separate you from God’s money, and it starts at an early age. Pretty soon, the same child who received 25 kid’s meals to get one action figure is the teenager answering “Yes” when the cashier asks, “Do you want to supersize that?” Pretty soon, “supersize” will also describe the amount of money this young man or woman owes the bank, the credit card companies and the government. Big problems start small. And teaching your child to be faithful with small amounts of money is the best way to end up with an adult who is faithful with … much more.

Yes, I’ve figured out some important truths about finances. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the mall. My grandson has a birthday coming up, and telling him no? That’s something else I haven’t figured out.